Shigeto – Full Circle

January 01, 1970

(Ghostly International)


Zach Saginaw’s latest drumming gig is with School of Seven
Bells, one of the better indie-pop bands to arise since Generation Y discovered
the ’80s. Onstage, he provides that group with a sneakily great combination of
pure oomph and straight-up technique. But when left to his own devices —
particularly as the electronic act Shigeto — he’s got a
strong hip-hop streak. Full Circle, his first full-length under that
moniker, is a heady blend of slow funk and reconstituted found sounds, but it
never gets tedious.


“Escape From The Incubator,” for instance, has the
potential to be a 3-minute gimmick, but Saginaw
shows admirable restraint: The song begins with some hyperactive telephone
tones and old-school video game blips, but before they become trite, he
submerges them in a slow, minimalist groove with Asian undercurrents. It’s
clever, on the whole, because he’s careful with the most sonically aggressive
elements. And he reverses that West/East relationship on “So, So
Lovely,” where plunked, gamelan-style notes are subdued by a fat synth
riff that wouldn’t be out of place on one of Dr. Dre’s better grooves. “Brown
Eyed Girl,” meanwhile, allows all of Saginaw’s percussive influences to gather
into a beat that recalls Prefuse 73.


Like those songs, the others on Full Circle each have some element
of ebb and flow, give and take, or hemisphere-to-hemisphere travel. They don’t
necessarily begin and end with the same sounds, but they all have a round
structure in one way or another. None of it, however, is overly arty; no
particular motif — Saginaw’s Japanese heritage, his Ann Arbor, Mich.,
upbringing, his European travels, his love for his Tascam mini-recorder —
dominates. And it’s mostly optimistic. When he dabbles in moodiness
(“Relentless Drag,” “Children At Midnight,” “Look At All The
Smiling Faces”), the vibe communicates a calm uncertainty more than
outright sadness. Hip-hop only has so much time for brooding, and Saginaw knows
it innately.


From The Incubator,” “So So Lovely,” “Children At Midnight” JOE WARMINSKY

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